Albanian criminals have been successfully using Facebook to evade immigration raids and smuggle illegal immigrants into the UK, reports The Telegraph.
The page, called 'Albanians in London' and run by convicted Albanian bank robber Fari Lleshi, has 123,000 followers, and publicly posts criminal schemes. The page has offered its illegal Albanian immigrant followers everything from Border Force raid alerts for to pictures of officials and their vans, to advice on setting up fake marriages.
The Facebook page also acts as a hub where Albanians can contact people smugglers. For a fee of up to £1,500 per person, illegal immigrants are clandestinely brought into the UK through Ireland – reportedly the cheapest and easiest entry point.
Among other services on offer is the recruitment of English-speaking people who can take English language citizenship tests for Albanians, or written tests for their driver's licenses.
Fari Lleshi, reportedly the Facebook page's criminal mastermind, illegally entered the UK after a six-year jail term for a £20,000 heist in Italy. After being convicted of drug dealing in Britain, he was deported in March. The “Albanians in London” Facebook site grew in popularity despite Lleshi being deported. The criminal can be seen posing on YouTube wielding two handguns and promoting his rap music.
The Telegraph reports that the page administrators shut it down within an hour of being contacted and refused to comment.
When contacted by the outlet, Facebook stressed that ads, posts or pages encouraging people smuggling were banned from the platform, and claimed it would have taken down the page if its administrators had not already “unpublished”.
A response from the Home Office to the report pledged zero tolerance to any abuse of the immigration system:
“We are clear that anyone found to be deliberately disrupting enforcement should feel the full force of the law. Social media companies have a responsibility to prevent illegal activity on their platforms. Our Online Harms White Paper proposes a duty on companies to tackle illegal activity on their platforms, including organised immigration crime.”
According to the UK National Crime Agency, Albanian crime gangs have come to dominate the cocaine market in Britain, drawing on illegal immigrants from the country’s remote, mountainous north where poverty is rife.
“The threat faced from Albanian crime groups is significant. London is their primary hub but they are established across the UK,” said an NCA spokesman.
NCA supposedly deployed six officers to Albania, with a spokesman adding: “We work closely with Albanian authorities and others in the region to combat key threats to the UK.”